Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Siem Reap, Cambodia (Angkor Thom Temples)

I accidentally posted this before I was finished, but maybe that's trying to tell me not to make such long posts.  So I will just tell you about the first part of our trip to Cambodia and add more posts later.

We stayed at a nice hotel in Siem Reap, where we enjoyed breakfast by the pool.  The pool was warm enough to swim in, and we took advantage of that each night.  We also learned how to play Snooker on the huge table on the patio.  The breakfast had French toast and homemade muesli.  It's a pleasure to stay in a Western-style hotel where we can recognize what we're eating!  We began our touring at Angkor Thom.  This was the capital of Cambodia in the 12th century and was a huge, thriving civilization.  We entered through the South Gate where dozens of statues lined both sides of the entrance to it along the road.  

There were huge statues depicting the "churning of the ocean of milk" from which the "charming lady" named Apsara emerged to bring prosperity according to Buddhist belief.  

Yeah, it's super hot--that's why we look so wilted!
The first temple we stopped to climb in was called Bak Sei Cham Krong, an extremely steep single-towered ruin built to the Hindu god, Shiva (the destroyer).  We immediately climbed up the front of it....because we could!  It was actually pretty scary and worrisome to climb back down!

Bak Sei Cham Krong 

I felt like Indiana Jones (or at least his wife)!  The trees were really huge, and looking through them, you could catch glimpses of other ruins nearby.  It was incredible.

We next explored the Bayon Temple, built to honor King Jayavarman VII who liberated the country and ruled from 1181-1220.  There are 54 towers in this temple, decorated with over 200 smiling faces of Avalokitesvara, an image in Brahmanism.  Some say they are actually images of the King.  The four corner towers represent the four cardinal directions and seasons.  The carvings in the walls represent the King and his envoy, Chinese soldiers on their elephants and horses, and other interesting scenes.

Some of the bas-reliefs represent Hindu and Theravada gods, the religion of the later kings who modified the temple to suit their own religious preferences.

Elephants in the royal procession.

Can you believe these have lasted nearly 1000 years?

Locals dressed in native costumes will allow you to take photographs of yourself with them....for a fee.

Love this shot!!

Around this temple were elephants carrying tourists, and some wild monkeys who were trying to grab anyone's snacks they could find.  It added to the "jungle" feeling of this awe-inspiring place.

It might be fun to ride the elephants, but I didn't want to take the time away from the ruins.  Anyway, I rode one once already--been there, done that!

This little fellow nearly broke my heart, but he was just the first of many such waifs in Cambodia. 

Tomorrow:  More of Angkor Thom--The Elephant Terrace and The Terrace of The Leper King. 

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